Beauty Queens

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Apr 212004
 
Authors: Brooke Harless

The common misconceptions of beauty queens are slowly

disappearing in the face of more and more women who are queens

because of their intellect and talent not their swimsuit, although

at one time the stereotypes were more correct.

However, the pageants of today do not look for merely a pretty

face but have become selective of individuals who are in college

and aware of current issues as well as passionate about causes.

“The Miss America pageant is the biggest scholarship program for

women in America,” said Gina Rotolo, a junior apparel merchandise

major and the current Miss Loveland.

Rotolo began entering pageants as a way to use her singing

ability to her advantage to pursue scholarships as well as gain

widespread singing experience and exposure. Rotolo also hopes to

incorporate her cause of helping to spread awareness of eating

disorders and is currently running for the title of Miss

Colorado.

“Since the ’80s pageants have changed as they now require women

to have a platform which they plug through out their competition

and reign,” said Rotolo, whose platform is eating disorder

awareness, a cause that Rotolo has always been passionate about,

having counseled others on the disease as well as volunteering in

Eating Disorder Awareness Week here at CSU.

Beauty pageants often conjure thoughts of the old Vaseline trick

on the teeth or taping one’s butt cheeks together.

“We do use adhesive to stick our swimsuits to our rear so they

don’t ride up during the competition,” Rotolo said.

Hoping to lay to rest many myths about beauty pageants she

explained her experience winning Miss Loveland.

“It was really a positive experience. All of the girls were very

nice and we helped each other out. One girl lost her evening gown

and we all helped her find something to wear,” Rotolo said.

Contestants in the Miss Colorado pageant are scored in four

categories. Interviewing with the judges is 40 percent of their

score and the talent competition is worth 30 percent, while the

swimsuit competition, evening wear and impromptu questioning are

all worth 10 percent of the overall ranking. This emphasis on the

contestant’s intelligence and talents as opposed to sheer beauty

ensures that the chosen contestant was selected for much more than

her looks.

“Being able to help others with eating disorders and inspire

other women to use their talents to gain a voice in society has

been well worth it,” Rotolo said.

The position of a CSU beauty queen was extremely popular in ’50s

and early ’60s until the politics began to shift and racial and

sexist criticism of pageants began to swell. In 1968 an

organization of African-American students decided to unite and

attempt to put an African-American woman on the ballot for the

first time. Vivian Kerr, who is currently a professor at Southern

University, recalls her experience attempting to run.

“We formed a group and I was elected to run as a contestant and

carry on our statement of the unfair exclusion of African-American

women in pageants at that time. I wasn’t allowed on the ballot

because I was not a part of enough organizations, although being an

African-American woman, I wasn’t allowed to join any organizations,

so I was unable to run,” Kerr said.

After her attempt to be put on the ballot, Kerr received some

discrimination but said that many CSU students reacted to the

statement by boycotting the homecoming event and showing their

support for African-American involvement in CSU activities.

“After our statement, the support we received on campus grew a

considerable amount and we noticed a significant change in some

students and groups and the campus acceptance,” Kerr said.

Kerr went on to graduate in 1969. Two years later, Kerr’s friend

and colleague Trudy Morrison ran for Homecoming Queen and was

crowned the first African-American Homecoming Queen in 1972.

Morrison had decided to run because of Kerr’s inspiration to make a

change.

“I was living in Belgium at the time and Trudy sent me a letter

after she won the title of queen. She wrote that I had inspired her

to make a difference. It really was a wonderful experience

altogether,” Kerr said.

According to James Hansen, professor of emeritus and CSU

historian, the 1974 Homecoming queen candidates included one male

on the ballot. After all the votes were counted Theron Abbott was

elected by an overwhelming margin although the Alumni Association

that was responsible for the homecoming events, refused to

acknowledge a man as homecoming queen.

Ken Goldsberry, the faculty chairman for homecoming was reported

as saying, “The contest called for a queen and a queen is someone

of the ‘female gender,’ and Abbott does not fill these

qualifications.”

After several students threatened to stage a protest, and the

school’s legal counsel suggested liability for sexual

discrimination, homecoming officials allowed Theron Abbott to be

crowned CSU’s first male Homecoming Person.

Abbott had decided to enter the pageant because, “there were no

bylaws or anything in the rulebooks that said a male couldn’t

apply. So the Commission on the Status of Women sponsored me. It

was definitely a feminist statement about the objectification of

women. We felt that a state of equality needed to be met. The whole

ordeal was great fun,” Abbot said.

After the political unrest and controversy surrounding the

pageant, the title of homecoming queen fizzled out of the CSU

Homecoming tradition but the impacts of the first African-American

Homecoming Queen as well as the first male Homecoming Person set

standards of racial and gender equality that have shaped CSU’s

history, and beauty pageants continue across the country to this

day, although the definition of beauty queen has changed

greatly.

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